Self-Care for Caregivers
Do yoga and breathe deeply. If only it were quite so simple! Most of us know that we should slow down and find our Zen, but our needs as caregivers often go deeper than that.
Our wellbeing extends far beyond the physical. Feeling vibrant means that all the parts of our life are full and rich: our emotional landscape, our connection to nature or spirit, intellectual pursuits, creative pursuits, physical needs, our surroundings, our finances, occupation, and our social/family life. If we neglect any of these, we certainly feel it!
Now, make a list of those nine things mentioned above. Keep it on your nightstand and reference it each morning upon waking. In taking stock of your overall needs, what on the list is screaming at you to be addressed?
The Wheel of Wholeness: Strengthening Each Spoke
As caretakers, our emotional world can feel like a warzone sometimes. The bombardment of demands placed upon us can wreak havoc on our being. Grief, fear, or anger, in particular, can stick with us long after we’ve gotten through the acute stress of a situation. However, there are ways to decompress:
Morning Pages—Morning pages is a practice of writing three full pages of stream-of-consciousness material immediately upon waking up each day. The idea comes out of Julia Cameron’s bestselling book, The Artist’s Way, and it has proven to be lifechanging for many.
Talk therapy—A good counseling session with a licensed professional is a wonderful way to lighten our emotional load. For maximum convenience, you can access services online through Talkspace.com, a HIPAA-compliant organization.
TRE—Trauma Release Therapy is a series of exercises that prime the body to shake out any trauma. It’s a wonderous practice that can help us stay emotionally regulated.
Nature or Spiritual Connection
Find something bigger than yourself to connect to. This can be a deep relationship to nature or a religious path. By doing that which fosters a feeling of closeness with a greater universe, you will support your overall wellbeing.
Mindfulness Walk—Spend ten minutes walking outside and bringing your awareness to all of your senses. Notice your mind quieting as you focus on the sensation of your feet contacting the ground and what you can see, hear, and smell.
Altar Prayer—If you don’t already have an altar in your home, create one. Put objects on it that are a reflection of your religious faith or that symbolize your connection to nature.
There’s a reason word searches, puzzles, and sudoku are so popular—they light up our brains! Intellectual challenges are a great remedy for stress because they have the power to takes us out of any negative thought-loops we might find ourselves in.
Teach What You Know—It’s said that to truly master a skill, you need to be able to teach it. Whether you’re an expert cake decorator or website builder, you’ll have a whole new understanding of your craft once you attempt to convey the information to a newbie.
Creative outlets allow us to turn our hardships into something beautiful. To take our frustrations and dance them out, or to take our pain and pour it into a poem or song is transformational. Whatever art calls to you, put all of your concerns into that space and see what happens.
As caregivers, we tend to forget our body’s needs. Sleep, food, exercise—we know these to be foundational. But, what about sunshine? We need sun exposure to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D, and it’s not enough to rely on diet alone. Getting outside and baring your skin for even ten minutes a day can significantly raise Vitamin D levels and elevate your mood.
The state of our home or office influences our mood, motivation, and interactions with others. Besides keeping a tidy place, consider adding elements of nature like an aquarium or live plants.
Sound also has a subtle influence on how we feel. There’s an energetic difference between having the television blaring as background noise and listening to your favorite music or nature sounds instead.
If your financial situation is weighing heavily on your spirit, know that you can take action now! Doing something to remedy a problem is empowering. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to financial management, but consider the following:
Call your creditors and ask if you qualify for a lower interest rate. It never hurts to ask. Explain your situation, and see what resources are available. Especially in times of general economic downturn, companies are often very happy to work with you.
Know your money priorities and have a plan. Stress often comes from wrestling with the unknown. Avoid it by writing out a detailed financial plan and hiring an advisor if appropriate. By making things concrete, you give yourself a structure to work within. Spending and debt become less emotionally triggering if you don’t hide under illusion.
As a caregiver, it’s easy to pretend that you’ve got everything handled and that you don’t need any extra consideration from others. However, we’re not islands. Let your workplace know if you need to take personal days and be sure to check out company resources such as employee counseling services and remote work policies. People want to help you!
We are part of a larger tapestry. Our communities and families can offer their support as we face obstacles as a caregiver, but it’s up to us to communicate effectively with them. Luckily, there are ways to say even the most difficult things with grace and ease.
Nonviolent Communication—Dr. Marshall Rosenburg developed a brilliant framework to help us communicate with compassion and clarity. His book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, offers a template for us to state our observations of a situation, our feelings and needs within it, and any requests. It’s a must-read for anyone seeking to improve their mediation or conversational skills.
We at Care Connections at Home understand the stressors of being a caregiver to a loved one, and it’s one of the many reasons why we offer our companion services. You’ve got to fill your own cup before you can fill someone else’s, and hopefully we can give you the time you need to do just that.
Please call us if you are interested in talking about our services. We’ll show up and care for your family like it’s our own.